Tag Archive: 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988

Jesus is Coming Soon, It Could be Today!

the rapture 3

For those of us who came of age in Evangelical churches in the late 1960s and 1970s, we remember countless sermons about the rapture, the coming second of Jesus, and the Great Tribulation. The classic Evangelical horror flick, A Thief in the Night, was released in 1972. Wikipedia explains the plot of A Thief in the Night this way:

A young woman named Patty Myer awakens one morning to a radio broadcast announcing the disappearance of millions around the world showing that the rapture has occurred. She finds that her family has disappeared and that she has been left behind. The United Nations sets up an emergency government system called the United Nations Imperium of Total Emergency (UNITE) and declare that those who do not receive The Mark of the Beast identifying them with UNITE will be arrested.

Several flashbacks occur to times in Patty’s life before the rapture has happened. The flashbacks also show her two friends and their different approaches to Christianity, one who considers Jesus Christ her Only Lord and Only Savior and the other, Diane, who does not take it seriously. Patty considers herself a Christian because she occasionally reads her Bible and goes to church regularly, where the pastor is really an unbeliever. She refuses to believe the warnings of her friends and family that she will go through The Great Tribulation if she does not accept Jesus Christ as her Only Lord and Only Savior. One morning, she awakens to find that her family and millions of others have suddenly disappeared.

Patty seems a strange breed of person who both refuses to trust Jesus Christ as her Only Lord and Only Savior and also refuses to take The Mark. Patty desperately tries to avoid the law and The Mark but is captured by UNITE. Patty escapes but, after a chase, is cornered by UNITE on a bridge and falls from the bridge to her death.

Patty then awakens, and the entire film’s plot is revealed to have been a dream. She is tremendously relieved; however, her relief is short-lived when the radio announces that millions of people have in fact disappeared. Horrified, Patty frantically searches for her family only to find them missing too. Traumatized and distraught, Patty realizes that The Rapture has indeed occurred, and she has been left behind. In the ensuing plot the questions are whether or not she will be caught, as she was in her dream, and whether or not she will choose to take The Mark to escape execution.

A Thief in the Night had a profound effect on scores of Evangelical Christians. Here was a movie showing in graphic detail what would happen when Jesus comes to earth and raptures away Christians. This movie, along with Estus Pirkle’s 1974 horror flick, The Burning Hell, really unsettled me emotionally and spiritually. Was I ready for the rapture? What if I wasn’t saved? These issues and others certainly played a part in my conversion at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio in the fall of 1973.  (Please see The Sounds of Fundamentalism: A Thief in the Night by Russell S. Doughten and  The Sounds of Fundamentalism: The Burning Hell by Estus Pirkle and Ron Ormond)

rapture

The 1970s featured prophecy-themed sermons from the books of Revelation and Daniel. In 1976, the Walking Bible, Evangelist Jack Van Impe came to Findlay to hold a city-wide crusade. Van Impe’s sermons were filled will warnings about the imminent return of Jesus and the Great Tribulation. I attended a Bob Harrington crusade (Please see Evangelist Bob Harrington: It’s Fun Being Saved) that featured several sermons about the soon return of Jesus. The widely-read Sword of the Lord ran regular articles and sermons about the pretribulational rapture of the church and the horrors of the soon-coming Tribulation.

Much of the evangelistic frenzy in the 1970s was driven by the belief that Jesus was preparing to come back soon — maybe today! Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, in particular, grew quickly, so much so that many of the largest churches in the United States were IFB congregations.

Of course, Jesus did not return in the 1970s. The 1980s saw Hal Lindsay’s book, The Late, Great Planet Earth, first published in 1970, which renewed Evangelical fervor with its prediction that the rapture would take place 40 years after the 1948 establishment of Israel as a nation. Lindsay’s book, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon, continued to stoke the fires of Evangelical zeal. (By 1990, The Late, Great Planet Earth had sold 28 million copies.) In 1988, Edgar Whisenant released a publication titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988. (88 Reasons sold 4.5 million copies, and 300,000 free copies were mailed to pastors.) Whisenant predicted that the rapture would take place between September 11 and 13, 1988. Jesus, of course, was a no show in 1988 and has yet to make an appearance to this day.

By the time the 1990s arrived, rapture-mania had pretty well died out. Oh, Evangelical pastors and evangelists still preached eschatological themed sermons, but the fervor that drove churches previously was gone. While preachers still preach about the imminent return of Jesus, such sermons no longer motivate congregants to busily win souls before Jesus comes again and it is too late.

Officially, most Evangelicals believe in the pretribulational rapture of the church. However, if you let their works testify to what they really believe, it is evident that Evangelicals no longer believe that Gabriel is fixing to blow his trumpet and Jesus is returning in the clouds to catch away his chosen ones. TV preachers such as con artist Jim Bakker continue to preach up the could-be-tomorrow rapture, but tomorrow never comes and their bank accounts continue to grow.

the rapture 2

Evangelicals have traded a soon-coming Lord for megachurches, fancy AV systems, praise bands, relational preaching and, most importantly, political power. Evangelicals seem far more concerned with expanding their kingdoms on earth than they do evangelizing the lost and building the kingdom to come. I don’t know of one Evangelical preacher, church leader, or congregant, for that matter, who lives as if Jesus could split the eastern sky today. I told Polly last night that Evangelicals sure do talk and sing a lot about Heaven, but none of them seem to be in much hurry to get there. The vast majority of Evangelicals not only are indifferent about their own souls, but they also couldn’t care less about the souls of their unsaved, heathen neighbors. Evangelicalism has become that which it stood against decades ago — institutionalized. It has become little more than cultural religion. The only reason any of us should give a thought about Evangelicalism is that it continues to have a dangerous anti-human hold on the Republican Party. Unbelievers now outnumber Evangelicals in the United States, but we have nowhere near the political and cultural power Evangelicals have.

Evangelicals can continue to preach up the soon return of Jesus, but it’s evident to anyone who is paying attention that they no longer believe what they are preaching. In fact, I suspect many Evangelicals hope Jesus isn’t in any hurry to destroy the world with fire. Deep down, most Evangelicals wonder if they really want to trade the good life of the here and now for an eternity of prostrating themselves before a narcissistic God.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Jesus is 2,000 Years Late for Dinner

marriage supper of the lamb

According to many Evangelicals, some day real, real, real soon the son of the Christian God, Jesus Christ, is going to return to the clouds of earth and rapture away all those who believe in him. Those raptured away have written-in-blood invitations to the marriage supper of the lamb. Revelation 19:6-9:

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

The Church is the bride who has made herself ready for the groom Jesus. Charles Spurgeon, the great nineteenth century English Baptist preacher, said the following in a sermon about the marriage supper of the lamb:

You noticed that I read parts of two chapters before I came to my text and I did it for this purpose.The false harlot-church is to be judged and then the true Church of Christ is to be acknowledged and honored with what is called a marriage supper. The false must be put away before the true can shine out in all its luster! Oh, that Christ would soon appear to drive falsehood from off the face of the earth!  At present it seems to gather strength, and to spread till it darkens the sky and turns the sun into darkness, and the moon into blood. Oh, that the Lord would arise and sweep away the deadly errors which now pollute the very air! We long for the time when the powers of darkness shall be baffled and the pure everlasting light shall triumph over all! We do not know when it shall be —“But, come what may to stand in the way, That day the world shall see,” when the truth of God shall vanquish error and when the true Church shall be revealed in all her purity and beauty as the Bride of Christ—and the apostate church shall be put away once and for all and forever! Time rolls wearily along just now, apparently, and some hearts grow heavy and sad, but let us take courage. The morning comes as well as the night and there are good days, not so far off as we have sometimes fancied—and some of us may yet live to see times which shall make us cry, “Lord, now let Your servants depart in peace, for our eyes have seen Your salvation.” Whether we live till Christ comes again, or whether we fall asleep in Him, many of us know that we shall sit down at the great wedding feast in the end of the days, and we shall partake of the supper of the Lamb in the day of His joy and glory! We are looking across the blackness and darkness of the centuries into that promised millennial age wherein we shall rejoice with our Lord with joy unspeakable and full of glory!

A fair-minded reading of the New Testament suggests that first century Christians believed Jesus would return to earth in their lifetime. Luke 9 states:

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.

Matthew 10 says this:

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

….

And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.  But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

Matthew 16:27,28 adds:

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

The New Testament is replete with verses which intimate that the disciples and apostles believed they were living in the “last days.” They believed the end of the world was at hand. Perhaps this is why Paul told Christians it was better if they remain unmarried. The second coming of Jesus was at hand, so there was no need to become encumbered with wives and children. These early followers of Jesus were certain that their name would soon be called by Jesus, the bridegroom, and they would be seated for the marriage supper of the lamb.

It’s 2017, almost two thousand years removed from the days of Jesus and his Jewish followers. Despite their faith and messianic hope, Jesus did not return to earth. These first followers of Christ lived and died without seeing their Lord split the eastern sky. And so has every generation of believers after them. Once it became evident that Jesus was not returning in the first century, Christians began reinterpreting what the Bible says about the last days to mean an unknown (by humans) period of time. According to many Evangelical preachers, the world has been living in the last days for two thousand years. According to them, Jesus is coming soon and it could be today!

88 reasons edgar whisenant

I am sixty years old. I have lived through more than a few end-of-the-world/Jesus-is-coming scares. In the 1970s, Jack Van Impe, the walking Bible, predicted Jesus was coming before the decade’s end. In the 1980s, Hal Lindsey predicted Jesus’ return was nigh, and who can forget the end-time scare wrought by Edgar Whisenant’s 88 Reasons the Rapture Will be in 1988. Even though I preached against Whisenant’s nonsense, I vividly remember the buzz his booklets caused. On the Sunday before Jesus’ return, infrequent attendees returned to church only to hear Pastor Bruce tell them that Jesus was NOT returning any time soon. (At the time, I held a post-tribulational, amillennial eschatological viewpoint.) And sure enough, my sermon was spot on. Jesus did not return. Someone still needed to volunteer for nursery duty or to clean the church, and I still had sermons to preach and souls to save.

Since 1988, numerous Evangelical zealots have predicted the end of the world and the return of Jesus, with every prediction failing and becoming yet another example of Christian stupidity. I am sure some Evangelical readers are screaming at their computers or smartphones, JUST YOU WAIT, BRUCE. JESUS IS GOING TO PROVE YOU WRONG!  How can he? I ask, Jesus is d-e-a-d. The reason the Christian Lord and Savior has not returned is that dead people don’t come back to life. Jesus remains right where his followers buried him two thousand years ago — in the grave. Dead people don’t resurrect from the dead, neither do they ascend to the heavens so they can spend two millennia building condominiums (John 14).

Imagine me telling you that I wanted to take you out to eat real soon — I mean like tomorrow or early next week. I can’t tell you the exact date for our dinner engagement, but I will give you signs that will help you discern when to expect going out to eat with me. You are excited about the prospect of going to dinner with Bruce Almighty. Next week comes and goes without a call. You happen to run into a mutual friend who tells you, I heard Bruce mention that he was planning to take you out for dinner real soon. I am sure you would think that I would soon be calling to tell you when my limousine would arrive to pick you up. Yet your phone never rings. Our mutual friend keeps telling you, SOON, VERY SOON, BRUCE WILL CALL. Weeks turn into months, and months into years without me ever delivering on my promise. I suspect that you would eventually give up on me ever taking you to dinner.

So it is with the promised return of Jesus Christ. After two thousand years of promises, I think we can safely conclude that the marriage supper of the lamb is not going to happen; that Jesus and his followers are big talkers, promising that which they cannot deliver.

It is possible that we live in the “last days”, but these days are not those supposedly prophesied in the Bible. Reading the political tea leaves has led me to conclude that the United States has a psychopath at its helm. Donald Trump threatens North Korea with nuclear annihilation, failing to consider that once the first missile is fired the world as we know it is no more. Such insanity would certainly be the end of the human race, but the world? It will live on, perhaps devoid of life, save for a few cockroaches and Republicans. And what might make such carnage possible is the fact that millions of Americans believe that some sort of Armageddon with bring about the destruction of the planet and then Jesus will return to make all things new. 2 Peter 3:10-13 states:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

I have no fears about the second coming of Jesus, but I sure as hell fear Evangelicals, armed with materialistic interpretations of the Bible, who believe the end of the world is prophesied within Scripture’s pages. I most certainly fear people who think ridding the world of liberalism, false teachings, communism, evolution, and atheism is their divine calling — that Jesus has chosen them to be front line soldiers at the Battle of Armageddon or some other event divined from the Bible. These pious Bible thumpers can’t wait to be seated at marriage supper of the lamb, but before that happens God must cleanse the earth of all that offends and make all things new. I am not worried one bit about not being invited to dinner, but I sure am concerned about what happens to this planet of ours if Evangelicals get their way.

Note:

I realize that Evangelicals hold to a variety of equally insane eschatological beliefs. I am taking a general swipe at Evangelical eschatology, and not attacking any specific system of belief. Regardless of what position one holds, unbelievers are still excoriated from earth and all things are made new so Jesus and his followers can have the resplendent home promised in the book of Revelation.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Jesus is Coming Soon: The Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast

jack chick tract the beast

From Jack Chick tract, The Beast

Growing up in the Evangelical church, I was exposed to eschatological preaching which purported to divine the future. Based on a literalistic interpretation of the book of Revelation, Evangelical preachers tell of a day when Jesus will come to rapture (remove) Christians from the earth. After the rapture, God will, for seven years, pour out his wrath on the earth.  This period of divine slaughter and judgment is called the Great Tribulation.

During the Tribulation, the Antichrist, a powerful figure who wages war against God, will rise up and exert dominion over the earth. While Evangelicals have multiple interpretations of who and what the Antichrist is, all agree that he is one of the central figures of the Tribulation drama. According to the book of Revelation, the Antichrist will ultimately be defeated by Jesus and cast into the Lake of Fire.

Most Evangelicals believe the Antichrist is a real person. This belief has led to speculation about this or that person being the Antichrist. Some Evangelicals believe the Antichrist is alive today and could be someone such as Barack Obama or Pope Francis. What is interesting about these predictions about who the Antichrist might be is that the potential Antichrist always has political views opposed by Evangelicals. This is why some Evangelicals find it quite easy to label President Obama as the Antichrist, even more so of late since it has been reported that Obama might head the United Nations after he leaves office. (Many Evangelicals believe the United Nations will be used by the Antichrist to take over the world.)

According to many Evangelicals, during the Tribulation the Antichrist will take control of the world’s economy. No one will be able to buy or sell anything without having the mark of the Beast. The Biblical basis for this belief is found in Revelation 13:16-18:

 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

Prior to the modern technological era, many Evangelicals believed that the mark of the Beast was a tattoo of the number 666 on the hands or foreheads of the followers of the Antichrist. In recent decades, Evangelicals have suggested that the mark of the Beast could be some sort of bar code, a mark that can only be read by using a certain type of light, or an embedded chip. I remember one preacher who was certain that supermarket scanners were paving the way for the Antichrist and the mark of the Beast.

While the character of  the mark has changed over the years, the importance of it has not. Anyone receiving the mark of the Beast will be doomed forever. Revelation 14:9-11 states:

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

According to these verses, anyone who takes the mark of the Beast will face the fury of the wrath of God. Suffering and painful death await all who take the mark.

The 1970s and 1980s were the heyday for literalistic interpretations of the book of Revelation. Evangelical pastors regularly preached sermons on the end-times, featuring subjects such as the rapture, the Great Tribulation, the second coming of Christ, the millennial reign of Christ, and the great white throne judgment. Filled with illustrations from newspapers, these sermons inflamed the passions of Evangelical church goers. As the headlines changed, so did the sermons, but the focal point remained the same: Jesus is coming soon.

end of the world

After the 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988 debacle, Evangelical passion for future events cooled. I am of the opinion that the rise of the religious right, a political movement with plans to take over America for Jesus, turned Evangelical attention from the future to the present. Instead of seeking after the kingdom of heaven, Evangelicals began to focus on building God’s kingdom on earth. Gone, for the most part, are prophecy conferences and literalistic sermons from Revelation and Daniel. Instead, pastors focus on felt-needs and personal fulfillment. There are certainly Evangelicals pastors who continue to preach newspaper headline sermons, but such preachers are on the fringes of Evangelicalism (most often found in charismatic, Pentecostal, and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches).

As I came of age in the 1970s, I heard frequent end-time sermons. Preachers warned that we were the last generation, those who would see the second coming of Jesus Christ. Men such as Jack Van Impe predicted Russia would invade and take over the United States, thereby ushering in the Great Tribulation. Many preachers believed that the rapture and the second coming of Christ would take place sometime between 1984 and 1988. The thinking went something like this: Israel became a nation in 1948, a generation is 40 years long, thus, at the very latest, Jesus would return to earth in 1988.

In the late 1970s, I was a pastoral assistant to Jay Stuckey, pastor of Montpelier Baptist Church, a General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) congregation. Stuckey, as many preachers of his era, was obsessed with prophecy, the Illuminati, and numerous other conspiracies. Calls to evangelize were driven by Stuckey’s belief in the imminent return of Jesus; imminent meaning, at any moment. Forty years later, Stuckey and I are no longer in the ministry, Montpelier Baptist, a church that one time had over 500 in attendance, is closed, and those who were once obsessed with the soon-return of Jesus have turned to more earthly matters such as marriage, children, jobs, houses, and economic prosperity. While these people still tacitly believe that Jesus will someday return to earth, their lives are no longer dominated by eschatological thoughts. In other words, they grew up.

Were you once part of a church that was obsessed with the end-times? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Note

I am well aware of the fact that Evangelicals are not in agreement about how the books of Daniel and Revelation should be interpreted. That said, it is not hard to find Evangelical blogs, websites, and news services promoting the eschatological beliefs mentioned in this post.

You can read the complete text of 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Be in 1988 here.